The Top 25 Cities for Employee Ownership 2023

See which cities are best for the growing employee ownership movement.

Rachel Hain

12

 MIN READ

We’re excited to announce the release of The Top 25 Cities for Employee Ownership for 2023! Our second annual list showcases the cities in America that have successfully fostered a positive environment for employee ownership to thrive.

 Collectively, this year’s Top 25 Cities are home to 726 employee-owned companies. From small towns to large metros, these cities range in size from 23,000 people to over 2 million. They represent 17 states - 2 more than last year - with a range of cultures and political orientations. The diversity of cities in the Top 25 shows the broad appeal of employee ownership.

Employee ownership changes the relationship between business and community. When employees have an ownership stake, companies become rooted in their communities. 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. 

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 the number of employee-owned companies, their concentration relative to the city’s population, and the portion of companies that have recently become employee-owned. We restrict ourselves to all cities with at least five employee-owned companies. 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 in our Directory of Employee-Owned Companies.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

#1 - HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA 

The capital of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg is the #1 city for employee ownership in 2023! Harrisburg is home to 15 employee-owned companies, including HB Global and Touch of Color Flooring. With a population of 58,320, Harrisburg has one employee-owned company for every 2,536 residents. Legislation has recently been introduced that would create resources for employee ownership. The legislation, LPRO 3835, also known as The Employee Ownership Assistance Program, would establish an office for employee ownership, as well as provide assistance to businesses converting to employee ownership. 

#2 - BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA 

Known for all things counter-culture, Berkeley is the #2 city for employee ownership. Home to 25 employee-owned companies, including Mal Warwick Donordigital, Alternative Technologies, Biofuel Oasis, Drought Smart Collective, and Heartwood Custom Woodworking. Berkeley continues to be a hub for employee ownership and worker cooperatives. In September 2022, California passed SB 1407, The Employee Ownership Act, to expand employee ownership in California. The law will establish a dedicated office for employee ownership. The law will aid existing businesses transition to employee ownership, while also expanding other employee-owned ventures, whether through new startups or aid provided to current employee-owned firms. The employee ownership office’s work encompasses ESOPs, worker cooperatives, and various other models. 

#3 - CINCINNATI, OHIO 

Sitting on the Ohio River, Cincinnati is the #3 best city for employee ownership and is home to 38 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. Cincinnati is also home to Co-Op Cincy, a non-profit organization that specializes in worker cooperatives. With a population of 304,548, Cincinnati has one employee-owned business for every 8,460 residents. 

#4 - FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA 

Just outside of the nation’s capital, Fairfax, Virginia is the #4 best city for employee ownership. Fairfax moved up 10 spots from 2022! Fairfax is home to 13 employee-owned companies, including Highlight Technologies, Miklos Systems, Bishop Equipment Company, and Foxhole Technology, Inc. With a population of 23,429, Fairfax has one employee-owned company for every 1,802 residents, making it the smallest city on the list. Major industries for employee ownership in Fairfax are consulting and engineering. 

Minneapolis, Minnesota

#5 - MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA

Minneapolis rounds out the Top 5 as the #5 overall city for employee ownership! With 45 employee-owned companies, including Swanson & Youngdale, H2I Group, Kurt Manufacturing Company, Alliant Engineering, and Intuitive Technology Group. 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.

#6 – HONOLULU, HAWAII

The state capital and largest city in Hawaii, Honolulu is the #6 best city for employee ownership. Honolulu is home to 37 employee-owned companies, including Generator & Power Systems LLC, Island Pacific Distributors, Roberts Hawaii, and The Solaray Corporation. Honolulu moved up 5 spots from the 2022 list! Top industries include engineering, wholesale, and HVAC services. A collaboration with Kaiser Permanente, Project Equity and Obran Cooperative, created the Business Resiliency Through Employee Ownership initiative to help improve economic health. One goal of this initiative is to provide resources for small businesses to transition to employee ownership. 

#7 – GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

Located just east of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids is the #7 best city for employee ownership, up from #12 on the 2022 list. Grand Rapids is home to 28 employee-owned companies, including Custom Profile, Progressive AE, Dorner Works, and Watkins Ross & Company. Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX) received a three year grant specifically focused on identifying businesses in the Grand Rapids and greater Kent County with owners that are near retirement to educate them on the benefits of employee ownership as an exit strategy. In turn, they hope to keep more businesses local while creating more employee-owners. 

#8 – HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA 

Huntsville, Alabama is the #8 city for employee ownership in 2023, up 5 places from 2022. The most populous city in Alabama, Huntsville is home to 22 employee-owned companies, including Inline Electric Supply, 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. From introducing a state center to proposed legislation, there’s lots of interest in expanding employee ownership throughout the state. The Sand Mountain Cooperative Education Center for example, is working toward cooperative institutions to expand and strengthen worker-ownership. 

St. Louis, Missouri

#9 - ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

St. Louis, Missouri is the #9 city for employee ownership in 2023. The gateway to the west, St. Louis is home to 31 employee-owned cities, including Balke Brown Transwestern, Roeslein & Associates, USA Mortgage. Top industries for employee ownership include real estate, construction, and engineering. With a population of 297,645 residents, St. Louis has one employee owned company for every 9,922 residents. 

#10 - WALNUT CREEK, CALIFORNIA 

Walnut Creek, California is the #10 best city for employee ownership for 2023, rounding out the top 10! Walnut Creek is home to 12 employee owned companies, including Brown and Caldwell, InVision Communications, and moved up 11 spots from 2022, MKA International, Inc., Davis Home Pros, and Skyline Capital Builders, LLC. 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 over 60 years of being employee-owned! 

#11 - OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA

Oakland, California is the #11 best city for employee ownership in 2023. Known as “The Town,” Oakland is home to 39 employee owned businesses, the 8th most of any city. Companies in Oakland include MN Builders, Menke & Associates, Monterey Mechanical, and Paramount Export Company. 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. 

#12 – DUBLIN, OHIO

Dublin, Ohio is the #12 best city for employee ownership for 2023, their first appearance on our list and the second city in Ohio to make the list! A suburb of Columbus, Dublin is home to 10 employee owned companies which include Parallel Technologies, FST Logistics, Ulrey Foods, Ruscilli Construction, and VARGO solutions. Co-Op Columbus supports the Central Ohio community to help worker-owned and shared-equity cooperatives thrive. 

Atlanta, Georgia

#13 - ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Atlanta, Georgia is the #13 city for employee ownership in 2023 and the second city to be ranked from Georgia. The capital of Georgia, Atlanta is home to 38 employee-owned companies, including 1910 Legacy Enterprises, Benning Construction Company, Ogden Forklifts, and Prestwick Construction Company. Atlanta is also home to the Georgia Center for Employee Ownership which aims to create more employee owners throughout the state by providing resources about the benefits of employee ownership. 

#14 – DENVER, COLORADO

Denver, Colorado is the #14 best city for employee ownership for 2023! The Mile High City is home to 43 employee owned companies - making it the #3 city for total number of EO businesses, which include Progressive Retail Management, Bow River Capital, Logisticsflow, and Truce Media. The state’s capital also hosts the nation’s first permanent office for employee ownership which is a division of The Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT). The Colorado Employee Ownership Office offers resources for businesses who are considering employee ownership models. One of which is a grant to help offset the costs of transitioning to employee ownership. 

#15 – SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS 

Springfield, Illinois is the #15 best city for employee ownership. The state’s capital has 13 employee owned companies including Andrews Engineering, Henson Robinson Company, M.J. Kellner, and Springfield Electric Supply. With a population of 113,671, Springfield has one employee owned company for every 9,473 residents. 

#16 – FARGO, ND 

Fargo, North Dakota is the #16 city for employee ownership in 2023! The state’s most populous city, Fargo is home to 33 employee-owned companies, including Dakota Supply Group, OK Tire Store, and Fargo Glass & Paint Company. 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. 

#17 – SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA 

San Francisco is the #17 city for employee ownership in 2023. “The City by the Bay” is home to 57 employee-owned companies, making it #2 in terms of total number. , including Recology, Inheritance Funding Company, Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders. Recology Is one of the largest employee-owned companies from the list with just under 4,000 employees. 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. 

#18 – YORK, PENNSYLVANIA 

York, Pennsylvania is ranked #18 for employee ownership in 2023, up from #24 in 2022. The second city to be ranked from Pennsylvania, York is home to 9 employee-owned companies, including Weldon Solutions, Flnchbaugh, and Minnich’s Pharmacy. With a population of 43,907, York is also the second-smallest city on our list. York has one employee-owned company for every 5,488 residents. Top industries for employee ownership in York are engineering, HVAC, and manufacturing. 

Boulder, Colorado

#19 – BOULDER, COLORADO

Boulder, Colorado is making its first appearance on the list as the #19 best city for employee ownership. The second city ranked from Colorado, Boulder is home to 11 employee owned companies which include Civic Consulting Collaborative, Namaste Solar, and Flatirons Bank. With a population of 107,645, Boulder has one employee owned company for every 9,786 residents. 

#20 – PORTLAND, OREGON 

Portland, Oegon is the #20 best best city for employee ownership in 2023. Known as the “City of Roses,” Portland is home to 37 employee-owned companies including Cascade Energy, 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. 

#21 – IRVINE, CALIFORNIA 

Irvine, California is the #21 best city for employee ownership in 2023 - making it the fifth (but not final!) city from California to be ranked. There are 17 companies that are headquartered in Irvine including Bivar, Inc., International Education Corporation, MAAS Companies, and Murow Development Consultants. With a population of 283,700, Irvine has an employee owned company for every 16,688 residents. 

#22 - LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA

Lynchburg, Virginia is ranked #22 for employee ownership in 2023. Lynchburg is the second city from Virginia ranked on this year’s list and to 14 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. 

#23 – SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Seattle, Washington is the #23 best city for employee ownership in 2023, a newbie to the list. There are 32 employee owned companies headquartered in The Emerald City including Charlie’s Produce, Harris Group, and PRR. Earlier this year, Washington’s governor signed a bill that would expand employee ownership resources. This new law will establish a state employee ownership program to promote ESOPs, worker cooperatives, and Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs). This law can also provide a revolving loan fund to directly support the costs of transitioning to an employee ownership model. 

#24 – SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

San Diego, California is the #24 best city for employee ownership and the fifth (and final) city to be ranked from California. This SoCal city is home to 45 employee owned companies, including, ATA Engineering, Carrier Johnson, Epsilon Systems Solutions, Pegasus Clean, Quartus Engineering, Torrey Pines Landscape, and Western Lighting. In 2021, The Workforce Partnership released a study that revealed employee owned businesses throughout San Diego are more resilient and profitable than private companies. 

Houston, Texas

#25 – HOUSTON, TEXAS 

Coming in at the #25 best city for employee ownership, Houston, Texas is the final city on the list. Houston is home to 62 employee owned companies including Access Sciences Corporation, Pieper-Houston Electric LP, Stress Engineering Services.  Houston is #1 for the number of employee owned companies and total population. 

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. With a population of just over 2 million, Houston has one employee owned company for every 37,357 residents. 

Note: All data on the number of employee-owned companies comes from the Certified Employee-Owned Directory as of 7/28/2023. All data on city populations comes from the U.S. Census Bureau for the year 2020.

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