A wide variety of cooperatives outside the agricultural sector have been playing an important role in the nation's rural and urban areas by providing housing for the elderly and poor, affordable health care, child care, and education. These firms may constitute both business models that reduce the cost of operating a business and effective community development models that forge cooperation among local government and communities. However, limited information is available about how these non-agricultural cooperatives operate, how they were formed, or what are their problems or difficulties as non-traditional cooperatives. This study of 162 randomly selected non-agricultural cooperatives across the United States attempts to answer these questions and finds that even this small sample of non-agricultural cooperatives played an important role in various sectors of the nation's economy (e.g., retail), serving slightly less than half a million members in 1996. Most of these non-agricultural cooperatives had been in business for over 30 years, showing their tenacity in today's highly competitive world. Most of these cooperatives were professionally managed. While raising equity was the most difficult problem during their formation stage, competition in their major market (trade) area was the most difficult current problem. The problem of balancing the interests of cooperative members was a major problem for these non-agricultural cooperatives. According to these non-agricultural cooperatives, training and education of the cooperative board of directors, management, and employees is an important factor for cooperative success.


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