The Legacy Project

By 2024, all “Baby Boomers” (those born from 1946 through 1964) will be at least 60 years old. As business owners from this birth cohort plan their retirement, they may not readily find a buyer or have family members interested in keeping the business operational.

Rural business owners without a clear exit strategy may benefit by selling to their employees through either a cooperative or an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). These models offer owners a viable exit strategy, offer opportunities for rural workers to retain their jobs, allow for the retention of local ownership, and maintain economic vibrancy and identity for the community.

NWCDC in conjunction with a number of partners including the Washington State Grange, the US Department of Agriculture-Rural Development Agency, and others have created the “Legacy Project”. This project aims to raise the profile of the co-operative option in succession planning among rural business owners by educating business advisors, business owners, and community economic developers of the benefits of converting their business to a worker co-operative throughout the Pacific Northwest . Executive Director Diane Gasaway notes, “Small business advisors are the target audience for their potential to establish a continuing education pathway.”

Target Communities

In the first round of the Legacy Project, NWCDC will be focusing on 19 communities in the pacific northwest. These communities were chosen due to a number of factors including being centrally located to their region, previous cooperative projects, and connection to a Small Business Development Center or other Economic Development network among other factors. 


  • In Idaho, the Legacy Project focuses on Salmon, Hagerman, and Driggs.
  • Oregon communities include La Grande, Ontario, Redmond, Coos Bay, Klamath Falls
  • Washington communities include Aberdeen, Centralia, Colfax, Longview, Moses Lake, Mt. Vernon, Port Angeles, Shelton-Olympia, Toppenish, Wenatchee. 

Key Staff

It takes a village to create a co-op. The Legacy Project draws on considerable knowledge and experience in the cooperative world along with professional technical assistance providers in the areas of law, accounting, finance, and estate planning. 

Cooperative Technical Assistance Providers

Diane Gasaway,
Executive Director

John McNamara, NWCDC

Professional Technical Assistance Providers