Municipal Enterprise

Burlington Electric Department

Catalyzed in 1905 by city officials hoping to reduce the electricity costs for street lighting and residences, Burlington Electric Department is now Vermont’s largest municipally-owned electric utility serving more than 19,600 customers.  In 2004, the publicly-owned utility decided to move towards renewable energy, and in 2014 it reached that goal, becoming the first utility of any considerable size in the country to rely on 100 percent renewable energy for its residents' electricity needs, a transition it expects will save the City $20 million over the next two decades.

Power To The People: Toward Democratic Control of Electricity Generation

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy

This provocative whitepaper explores how public and cooperative ownership in the energy sector can accelerate a transition to sustainable energy while creating democratized wealth, using the historical experience of rural electrification in the United States as a key starting point to imagine a green future.

Rochester Public Market

Established in 1905, Rochester Public Market is a city-run public market selling fresh produce and other food items and housing numerous independent, local businesses.  The market has the largest “token program” in the country, which enables food stamp recipients to easily purchase market goods.  It also is committed to energy efficiency and environmental stewardship, relying on a solar panel roof and solar-powered compacting garbage cans.  In the summer of 2015, the Market will launch a $7.2 million improvement project designed to renovate and expand the market, and will begin a composting program for its vendors.

Port of San Francisco

The Port of San Francisco includes more than 1,000 acres that stretch 7.5 miles across the San Francisco Bay shoreline.  It receives no financial support from the City and relies almost solely on leasing Port property for its revenues.  In FY 2014-15, the Port expects to generate $83.5 million in operating revenue, with over half (52 percent) from commercial and industrial rents, a quarter from parking, and the remainder from maritime uses and cruise fees.  The Port has over 560 commercial and industrial tenants, representing 20.6 million square feet of occupied space. Read more about Port of San Francisco...

Hull Wind

The small Town of Hull (population less than 11,000) is one of dozens of cities that have municipally owned utilities. The Town of Hull Municipal Light Plant, owned by the city, produces all of the city’s electricity. When residents became interested in pursuing renewable power, they led citizen meetings, and were able to meet with the managers of the electric plant to persuade them to put up a wind turbine. In 2001 Hull put up the East Coast’s first commercial-scale wind turbine. Read more about Hull Wind...

Faneuil Hall

In 1976, The City of Boston acquired and restored the historic Faneuil Hall markets, creating one of the first examples of the so-called “festival marketplace” approach to economic development. The city owns and leases out three of its four Faneuil Hall buildings to a private property manager—this space is known as the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Over 70 retailers and 40 office tenants occupy 200,000 square feet of retail space. The fourth building, Faneuil Hall is still used as a lively marketplace, meeting hall where many Boston City debates are held. Read more about Faneuil Hall...

Nebraska’s Community-Owned Electricity System

In Nebraska, 121 publicly-owned utilities, 10 cooperatives, and 30 public power districts provide electricity to a population of around 1.8 million people.

In the United States, there is one state, and only one state, where every single resident and business receives electricity from a community-owned institution rather than a for-profit corporation. It is not a famously liberal state like Vermont or Massachusetts. Rather, it is conservative Nebraska, with its two Republican Senators and two (out of three) Republican members of Congress, that has embraced the complete socialization of energy distribution.

Port of Oakland

Although it's a public agency, the Port of Oakland funds its own operations through its three core enterprises:  the Oakland International Airport, its container port, and its nearly 20 miles of waterfront commercial real estate.  In 2010, the Port employed 37,116 people in jobs that paid 10 percent above the regional average, purchased $851 million from other local businesses, and generated $6.8 billion in revenues. Read more about Port of Oakland...


Manufactured and marketed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), a government agency charged to provide water reclamation and flood management services to more than a million people in the Greater Milwaukee Area, Milorganite products are organic nitrogen fertilizers made from wastewater captured from the Milwaukee region. Established in 1926, the Milorganite program is considered one of the world’s largest recycling efforts. In FY 2013, MMSD sold 47,672 tons of Milorganite products, generating over $7.6 million. Read more about Milorganite...

O’Hare Airport

Officially opening in 1955, Chicago’s O’Hare airport is now the sixth largest airport in the world in terms of passengers per year.  The airport is credited with supporting 450,000 jobs in the Chicago region and generating $38 billion of economic activity.  With a strong commitment to sustainability, O’Hare houses the first airport-based rooftop aeroponic garden that provides airport vendors easy access to fresh produce, affords preferential treatment to compressed natural gas taxicabs, and runs a range of programs to encourage sustainable practices including wetlands restoration and soil reuse.  It also is the site of the largest airport-based apiary in the world, which provides job experience for disadvantaged populations through its partnership with Sweet Beginnings.

Cincinnati Southern Railway

Recognizing the need to transport natural resources of the South to the industrializing Midwest, Cincinnati developed a 337-mile railway to connect its City to Chattanooga, TN. Completed in 1880, the railway is still owned by the City of Cincinnati, making it the only municipality in the country to own an inter-state railroad. Today, Cincinnati leases the railway to the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (CNO&TP), an arrangement that has generated over $400 million in rent payments for the city since 1987. Read more about Cincinnati Southern Railway...

2014 Academy of Management Annual Meeting

August 2nd, 2014
Philadelphia, PA

Research Director Steve Dubb will be serve on a panel discussing "How can we use diverse forms of community and employee ownership to build wealth in low-income communities, promote sustainability and advance the principles of economic democracy." Read more about 2014 Academy of Management Annual Meeting ...

Kentucky City Begins Operating New Municipally-Owned Gas Station

A conservative-leaning city purchases a fuel center in an effort to drive down gas prices for local residents.

Earlier this month, the small city of Somerset, Kentucky drew national attention when it opened a municipally-owned and -operated fuel center in an effort to drive down gas prices for local residents. As a result of its proximity to Lake Cumberland, a popular tourist destination, the city of 11,000 residents has long struggled with high fuel prices—especially during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Read more about Kentucky City Begins Operating New Municipally-Owned Gas Station...

After Piketty, the ownership revolution

Gar Alperovitz
Al Jazeera America

In an Al Jazeera article Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz presents a critical perspective of Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book Capital in the Twenty-First Century— emphasizing how democratizing ownership of capital can address the vast wealth inequalities that Piketty so powerfully documents.

Q & A with Gar Alperovitz: The new economy movement is crystallising

Clare Goff
New Start Magazine

Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz discussed the growing support behind democratizing wealth in an interview with New Start Magazine. 

The New Barnraising

Gareth Potts
German Marshall Fund of the United States

This new toolkit from the German Marshall Fund offers policies and practices to empower communities to preserve civic assets such as public parks, libraries, and recreation centers in the face of public and private resource constraints. Based on research conducted in Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Baltimore, the guide offers a range of strategies to raise money, awareness, and community involvement for the preservation of community assets.