Community Supported Industry (CSI) is a strategy to build resilient and diverse regional economies. CSI is an initiative aimed at creating a culture of support for entrepreneurs interested in more labor intensive, small-batch local production The concept of Community Supported Industry is an expansion of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.

Each of the varied regions in the United States was once home to a vibrant manufacturing sector that provided jobs and economic vitality while producing quality products made from the region’s resources. Currently, the majority of goods purchased in the U.S. are imported from distant countries and shipped across oceans to reach us.

The goal of Community Supported Industry is to strengthen regional economies by replacing some of those imports with goods produced by local businesses that provide living wages and employ sustainable manufacturing processes.

Our focus is on the basic necessities—food, clothing, shelter, and energy—and the goal is to foster businesses that produce locally, employ local residents, and sell in local shops in addition to exporting to other regions. By engaging a broad base of citizens in designing, developing, marketing, and financing new businesses, Community Supported Industry can help re-establish the value chain from resource to production to distribution and sale.

Within the Berkshire Region’s Community Supported Industry initiative, multiple partner organizations are developing paths for the Berkshire community to co-imagine, co-develop, co-finance, and patronize “import-replacement” businesses. These businesses will responsibly harness the natural resources available in the Berkshires to create products for local markets.

SHARE Small Business Loan Collateralization Program

1981 was a period of high interest rates for loans to small businesses. The Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy (SHARE) program of the Southern Berkshire region was designed to pool savings of concerned citizens to collateralize bank loans to new businesses at a reduced interest rate. The program existed from 1981 to 1992, and collateralized 23 loans with a 100% rate of repayment – surprising the bankers, but not the SHARE depositors who knew the community businesses they supported. SHARE ended in 1992 when the banks in the region, prompted by Community Reinvestment Act requirements, began themselves to invest in small locally owned businesses at affordable interest rates. SHARE was no longer needed for its original purpose.

However, the SHARE model is still a useful and simple to operate tool that facilitates citizens making affordable loans available to businesses that cannot otherwise secure bank funding. Learn more about how to start your own SHARE program.

A Library of Business Plans—Community Entrepreneurs

Creating business plans for each of the multiple, interrelated small businesses that make up a thriving regional economy can be time intensive. The Schumacher Center for a New Economics is taking a page from the Mondragon bank in the Basque region of Spain to engage citizen “social entrepreneurs” in compiling an open-source online library of business plans, including financial statements, from successful regionally-scale business. Here are some business ideas.

You can help build the library by submitting business plans and financial statements of small-scale manufacturing companies in the categories of food, clothing, shelter, energy, and transportation. Send pdfs to schumacher@centerforneweconomics.org. Please include a statement in your email granting permission to post for public record.  Please delete identifying confidential information by blacking out names, addresses, and Employer Identification Numbers as necessary.

Entry to Entrepreneurship—Crowd Sourced Training

As part of the initiative to foster community entrepreneurship in the Schumacher Center’s home region of the Berkshires,  BerkShares, Inc. and the Schumacher Center for a New Economics have partnered with local organizations, community members, and companies to offer Entry to Entrepreneurship (E2E), a 10-week business-planning course for 16 to 30 year-olds. Since it started in 2015, the class has been offered from late January to mid April and is held at the Great Barrington campus of Berkshire Community College.

Each lesson is taught by a different volunteer member of the community, who brings his or her own unique skills, experience, and voice to our classroom. From lawyers and accountants to retired executives, shop owners, and food producers, the mentors, advisors and reviewers are all locally-based and offer a future support network for E2E graduates.

In the class, students are introduced to the concept of import replacement and are asked to identify what might be produced in the region that is currently being imported from elsewhere. This sets the tone for the course, and encourages students to write plans for businesses that will address practical needs in their community.

Each student presents their business plan at a public event at the end of the series of classes. Plans not implemented are shared on the BerkShares website, to serve as a starting point for future community entrepreneurs.

Take a look at the resources and tools here to learn more about the Entry to Entrepreneurship class and to watch videos of the classes from the Winter 2017 session. The many business owners, professionals, and retirees who lent their time and advice to the E2E students are listed under “resource people.” The business plans that students wrote are available by clicking the “business ideas” button.

Community Supported Industry Survey

BerkShares, Inc. has developed a survey to help us as a community identify gaps in our local economy. If you own a business in the Berkshires please take our survey. Your participation will aid in the development of Community Supported Industry.

A printable version of the survey can be downloaded here. A guide for taking the survey is available here. The survey is easily adopted for other regions.

 

More Information:

Community Supported Industry White Paper

Community-Supported Economyan article by Susan Witt in Kosmos Journal expanding the idea of Community Supported Industry

Rain Magazine article about a successful import replacement initiative in Eugene, Oregon.