Social Enterprises in Synergy
Written by Assiniboine Credit Union
You will soon be able to buy lumber on Main Street in Winnipeg again, just as you could 100 years ago when the strip was the centre of a bustling, growing gateway to the west
ACU member Pollock’s Hardware Co-op has joined two other social enterprises to open a building-materials warehouse, expand a carpentry training centre and house an energy-retrofit business in an old warehouse at 765 Main Street, just north of the Higgins Avenue underpass.
Pollock’s Hardware Co-op will remain open at 1407 Main Street, but the new 32,000 square foot building will house Pollock’s new building-materials store, Building Urban Industries for Local Development (BUILD) and Manitoba Green Retrofit (MGR). The three organizations have jointly bought the building supported by a loan from ACU.
The creation of a ‘business park’ is a natural fit for the three organizations that have been working together for years and are all poised to expand. “BUILD is our biggest customer and MGR hires a lot of BUILD’s trainees. We saw this as a way to solidify all our business together,” says Pollock’s General Manager, Mike Wolchok. “When we’re all in the same building we can load all of the trucks for the BUILD and MGR workers in the morning before they head out to their jobs, which will save time and gas.”
BUILD was established in 2006 to provide energy and water retrofits in homes in lower-income neighbourhoods.
“We use that work to train people who have employment issues, like ex-gang members, people with criminal records or without a high school diploma,” says Executive Director, Shaun Loney.
Many of BUILD’s trainees go to work at Manitoba Green Retrofit which provides property maintenance, energy retrofitting and bed bug remediation. “As a social enterprise we have a social agenda so we use our dollars differently. We buy local and use local services so that people’s dollars have a longer circulation in the community,” says Lucas Stewart, MGR General Manager, and ACU member.
Stewart says the fact that ACU is providing the loan for their social-enterprise business park is just part of a much larger picture for the men and women who work at MGR. Over the years he has become all too familiar with the challenges MGR employees face living in a cash economy. “When we started it was so disheartening to hand out cheques and watch everyone go to the Money Mart, knowing the Money Mart was taking a cut. More recently ACU has been working with some of our guys to get them into a direct deposit account and that is just wonderful,” Stewart adds.
Back at Pollock’s, Wolchok says their new business park for social enterprises will be open to the public and this will help local residents. “Previously if you wanted to buy a couple of sheets of drywall you’d have to go to the big box malls, then rent a vehicle to get it home or pay a ridiculous delivery charge. At our original store we’ve been getting more and more small contractors asking for drywall and lumber, and we’re going to finally be able to help them out.”
Other groups that will share the same roof with Pollock’s, BUILD and MGR include Local Investment Toward Employment (LITE), Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Manitoba Cooperative Association and Point Douglas Residents Committee, plus artists who were already working in the building.