Employee ownership changes the relationship between business and community. When every employee has an ownership stake, companies become rooted in place. The wealth they build flows through the local economy, the jobs they create are more stable, and they become more involved in service. Employee ownership is a win for workers, businesses and communities. That’s why we are proud to announce a new list highlighting the Top 25 Cities for Employee Ownership.
The Top 25 Cities for Employee Ownership showcases the cities in America that have done the most to foster a positive environment for employee ownership. Collectively they are home to 569 employee-owned companies. From small towns to large metros, these cities range in size from 17,000 people to over 850,000. From the coasts to the heartland, they represent 15 states with a range of cultures and political orientations. The diversity of cities in the Top 25 highlights the broad appeal of employee ownership.
Our list is the result of a comprehensive effort to identify every employee-owned business in America, including Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), Worker Cooperatives, Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs), and broad-based equity compensation plans such as stock options. By combining our unique certification data with government fillings, news articles, website visits, and direct phone conversations we have curated the only up-to-date list of every employee-owned company in America.
Our ranking of the Top 25 takes into account both the number and the concentration of employee-owned companies in each city. We restrict ourselves to all cities with at least five employee-owned companies and look at the total number and the per capita density. Our methodology creates a balanced list that puts every city on an even playing field. If you’re curious to see how many employee-owned companies are in your town, search your city name in our Directory of Employee-Owned Companies.
Fargo, North Dakota is the #1 city for employee ownership in 2022! The state’s most populous city, Fargo is home to 26 employee-owned companies, including Dakota Supply Group, Border States, Fargo Glass & Paint Company, and Scheels. Fargo is the only city in America in the top 25 for both the total number and per capita density of employee-owned companies. With a population of roughly 125,000, Fargo has one employee-owned company for every 4,800 residents. Top industries for employee ownership in Fargo include distribution, manufacturing, and engineering.
Berkeley, California is ranked #2 for employee ownership in 2022! Known for all things counter-culture, Berkeley is home to 22 employee-owned companies, including Mal Warwick Donordigital, Arizmendi Bakery, Sun Light & Power, and Alchemy Collective Cafe. Berkeley is the only city other than Fargo to be in the top 30 for both the total and per capita density of employee-owned companies. Berkeley also stands out as the #3 city for Worker Cooperatives with 18. Berkeley is partnering with Project Equity and the Sustainable Economies Law Center to help local businesses stay locally-owned and preserve their legacy by becoming employee-owned.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is the 3rd best city for employee ownership in 2022! The capital of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg is home to 17 employee-owned companies, including HB Global, D&H Distributing, and Schaedler Yesco Distribution. With a population of 58,000, Harrisburg has one employee-owned company for every 3,400 residents, making it the #9 city for per capita employee ownership.
Cincinnati, Ohio is the #4 city for employee ownership in 2022! Sitting on the Ohio River, Cincinnati is home to 32 employee-owned companies, including Al. Neyer, Intrust IT, Ohio Valley Electrical Services, Parallel Technologies and The Motz Corporation. Top industries for employee ownership in Cincinnati include IT consulting, manufacturing, electrical contractors, and wholesalers.
Minneapolis rounds out the Top 5 as the #5 overall city for employee ownership! With 40 employee-owned companies, Minneapolis is also the #5 city in terms of total number of EO businesses. H2I Group, Kurt Manufacturing Company, Brin Glass Company and RSP Architects all call Minneapolis home. The city has taken an active approach to fostering employee ownership. In 2016, it expanded its Business Technical Assistance Program (B-TAP) to include services aimed at supporting the development of new Minneapolis co-operatives by offering feasibility training and technical assistance for businesses interested in converting into a cooperative.
Madison, Wisconsin is the #6 city for employee ownership. The state capital of Wisconsin, Madison is home to 27 employee-owned companies, including Vita Plus, Bock Water Heaters and Just Coffee Cooperative. This midwestern university town stands out because of the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition (MCDC), a City of Madison-funded initiative to form worker cooperatives through co-op education, technical assistance, outreach to potential or existing business owners, and $10,000 seed grants to cooperative startups.
Lynchburg, Virginia is ranked #7 for employee ownership in 2022. Lynchburg is home to 15 employee-owned companies, including Electronic Design & Manufacturing, Scott Insurance, and Wiley & Wilson. Lynchburg is one of just nine cities in the Top 50 for both the total number and per capita number of employee-owned companies. Top industries for employee ownership in Lynchburg include insurance, engineering, and HVAC services.
Springfield, Missouri is the 8th best city for employee ownership in 2022. One of just three cities in the top 40 for both total and per capita employee-owned companies, Springfield is home to 21, including SRC Holdings, Ollis/Akers/Arney, Penmac Staffing, Global Recovery Group, NewStream Enterprises, DeWitt & Associates, and South Barnes Development Company. SRC is one of the most well-known employee-owned companies in America because its unique approach to open book management led to the creation of The Great Game of Business, which thousands of companies now use to increase engagement and business performance. A number of Springfield companies are also behind the recently launched Missouri Center for Employee Ownership.
St. Louis, Missouri is the #9 city for employee ownership in 2022. The gateway to the west, St. Louis is home to 28 employee-owned cities, including Balke Brown Transwestern, Roeslein & Associates, USA Mortgage, and Graybar Electric. Top industries for employee ownership include real estate, construction, and engineering.
Oakland, California rounds out the top ten as the #10 ranked city for employee ownership. Known as “The Town,” Oakland is home to 35 employee owned businesses, the 8th most of any city. Companies in Oakland include MN Builders, Menke & Associates, Paramount Export Company, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Coracao Chocolate, and New Harbinger. Oakland is also home to a number of non-profit organizations that promote employee ownership, including the National Center for Employee Ownership and The Democracy at Work Institute.
Honolulu, Hawaii is the #11 city for employee ownership in 2022. The state capital and largest city in Hawaii, Honolulu is home to 30 employee-owned companies, including Generator & Power Systems LLC, Island Pacific Distributors, Roberts Hawaii, and The Solaray Corporation. Top industries include engineering, wholesale, and HVAC services.
Grand Rapids, Michigan is ranked #12 for employee ownership in 2022. Located just east of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids is home to 21 employee-owned companies, including Custom Profile, Progressive AE, Axios, and Lumbermen’s. Grand Rapids is one of just nine cities in the Top 50 for both total number and per capita number of employee-owned companies. Top industries for employee ownership in Grand Rapids are engineering, construction materials, and manufacturing.
Huntsville, Alabama is the #13 city for employee ownership in 2022. The most populous city in Alabama, Huntsville is home to 20 employee-owned companies, including Ignite, OASYS, Inc, Pinnacle Solutions, Radiance Technologies, and Torch Technologies. Top industries for employee ownership in Huntsville are engineering, defense contracting, aerospace, and IT consulting.
Fairfax, Virginia is the 14th best city for employee ownership in 2022. Just outside of the nation’s capital, Fairfax is home to 10 employee-owned companies, including Miklos Systems, Fairfax Lumber & Hardware, and Zimmerman Associates. With a population of 23,429, Fairfax has one employee-owned company for every 2,343 residents, making it the #5 city for per capita employee ownership. Fairfax is also the 2nd smallest city on the Top 25. Major industries for employee ownership in Fairfax are consulting and engineering.
San Francisco, California is the #15 city for employee ownership in 2022. “The City by the Bay” is home to 50 employee-owned companies, making it #3 in terms of total number. Inheritance Funding Company, Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders, Gensler, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, Recology, and Swinerton all call San Francisco home. With a population of 866,606, San Francisco is the largest city on the Top 25. The City and County of San Francisco and the San Francisco Small Business Development Center are partnering with Project Equity to educate locally owned businesses on the advantages of converting to employee ownership. San Francisco was also part of the Democracy at Work Institute’s 2019-2020 Shared Equity in Economic Development (SEED) Fellowship, an initiative focused on creating worker cooperatives.
Portland, Maine is ranked #16 for employee ownership in 2022. Known for lighthouses and seafood, Portland is home to 11 employee-owned companies, including Systems Engineering, Artist & Craftsman Supply, Stroudwater Associates, and Wright-Ryan Construction. With a population of 66,803, Portland has one employee-owned company for every 6,073 residents, making it the #21 city for employee ownership per capita. Top industries for employee ownership in Portland are professional services and construction.
Atlanta, Georgia is the #17 city for employee ownership in 2022. The capital of Georgia, Atlanta is home to 30 employee-owned companies, including Benning Construction Company, Ogden Forklifts, Choate, EPI Breads, and Techwood Consulting. Atlanta is the #30 city for the total number of employee-owned companies, and several initiatives are underway to spread the model in Atlanta. The Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI) and Project Equity have partnered to create a business retention strategy focused on employee ownership. Atlanta was also part of the Democracy at Work Institute’s 2018-2019 Shared Equity in Economic Development (SEED) Fellowship, an initiative focused on creating worker cooperatives.
Roanoke, Virginia is the 18th best city for employee ownership in 2022. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is home to 12 employee-owned companies, including R&K Solutions, Lanford Brothers Company and The Branch Group. Top industries for employee ownership in Roanoke include professional services, engineering, and construction.
Louisville, Kentucky is the #19 city for employee ownership in 2022. Kentucky's largest city and the host of one of the most famous horse races in the world, Louisville is home to 34 employee-owned companies, including Advanced Lifeline Services, Hall Contracting of Kentucky, Master’s Supply and S&D Group. With a population of 615,924, Louisville is the second-largest city among the Top 25. Louisville was also part of the Democracy at Work Institute’s 2019-2020 Shared Equity in Economic Development (SEED) Fellowship alongside San Francisco and Atlanta.
Santa Fe Springs, California rounds out the Top 20 as the #20 city for employee ownership in 2022. Located in Los Angeles County, Santa Fe Springs is home to eight employee-owned companies, including Great Western Sales, LeFiell Manufacturing Company, and MATT Construction. With a population of 17,349, Santa Fe Springs is the smallest city in the Top 25. Santa Fe Springs has one employee-owned company for every 2,169 residents, making it the #4 city for employee ownership per capita.
Walnut Creek, California is ranked #21 for employee ownership in 2022. The fifth city from California to make the list, Walnut Creek is home to 10 employee owned companies, including Brown and Caldwell, AEI Consultants, Diablo Magazine, HPGI Holdings, and Heffernan Insurance Brokers. Walnut Creek has a long history of employee ownership. Brown and Caldwell is one of the older ESOPs in the country as they established their program in 1962 — that’s 60 years of being employee-owned!
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the #22 city for employee ownership in 2022. Known as the “Steel City,” Pittsburgh is home to 20 employee-owned companies, including Standard Air & Lite Corporation, Aerotech, Garrison Hughes, and Ryan Construction. In 2019, The Pittsburgh City Council voiced strong support for employee ownership. This was followed by the creation of a Citywide Task Force taking a comprehensive approach to contacting business owners about converting to employee ownership. The Task Force represents a broad group that includes the Office of Mayor William Peduto, the Office of the Lt. Governor, the PA State House, the Pittsburgh City Council, the Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership, the Democracy at Work Institute, Chatham University, and many Pittsburgh-based businesses.
Portland, OR is the 23rd best city for employee ownership in 2022. Known as the “City of Roses,” Portland is home to 32 employee-owned companies, good enough for #13 in terms of total number of EO businesses. Breakside Brewery, DKS Associates, Durham & Bates Insurance, and Hunter-Davisson all call Portland home. Top industries for employee ownership in Portland include architecture, engineering, and construction.
York, Pennsylvania is ranked #24 for employee ownership in 2022. York is home to eight employee-owned companies. With a population of 43,907, York is the third-smallest city on our list. York has one employee-owned company for every 5,488 residents, making it the #18 city for employee ownership per capita. Top industries for employee ownership in York are engineering, HVAC, and manufacturing.
Asheville, North Carolina rounds out the list as the 25th best city for employee ownership in 2022. Asheville is home to 10 employee-owned companies, including John W. Abbott Construction, MB Haynes, and Moog Music. Top industries for employee ownership in Asheville include manufacturing, construction, and printing.
Two cities outside of the Top 25 are worth mentioning. The city with the most employee-owned companies is none other than New York. However, as the most populous city in the country with 8,804,190 inhabitants, New York has just one employee-owned company for every 82,282 inhabitants, making it the #181 city per capita (fourth from the bottom of the list). The city with the highest density of employee-owned companies is Zeeland, Michigan. Zeeland has six employee-owned companies and 5,522 residents, giving it one business for every 920 people. But it is just #150 in terms of total businesses. While both are remarkable, New York and Zeeland showcase why we chose an approach that considers both absolute and per capita number of employee-owned companies.
We are proud to showcase the cities in America that have done the most to foster a positive environment for employee ownership. These cities are setting the standard for how to encourage employee ownership. At Certified Employee-Owned, we will continue to update our Directory of Employee-Owned Companies and create visibility for successful approaches to building an employee-owned economy.
Note: All data on number of employee-owned companies comes from the Certified Employee-Owned Directory as of 6/16/2022. All data on city populations comes from the U.S. Census Bureau for the year 2020.
Update (10/10/2020): A previous version of this article stated that Glatfelter Insurance Group was employee-owned, but it was pointed out by a reader that they were acquired by AIG and no longer have an ESOP.