New Leaf Market

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The New Leaf Market is a co-op market that is intended to be built in downtown De Pere with the mission of bringing healthy and organic food options to lower income neighborhoods in the surrounding area. The market was initially intended to be built in downtown Green Bay, but due to the rising competition in the potential locations and the concern from local banks on whether the market would be profitable the location was shifted to downtown De Pere. De Pere was chosen due to its high visibility and having the space available to turn New Leaf Market into a regional market rather than strictly a local one. Recently the project has faced severe financial issues that could cause the collapse of the project that has been going strong since its inception in 2008.

Formation Of The New Leaf Market Cooperative

The idea for the New Leaf Market came about in 2008 when a group of people (later called the New Leaf Market Cooperative) who were interested in creating some new local food enterprises in the Green Bay area came together. They wanted to accomplish the following goals through the use and operation of the New Leaf Market:

1) "Improve people’s health by better access to healthy food"

2) "Expand the market for the products of local growers and food producers by more direct connections to local customers"

3) "Expand the local economy by encouraging new local food enterprises and by creating good jobs"

4) "Enhance the economic and cultural vitality of the greater Green Bay area"

5) "Educate people about the relationships between good food and good health"

6) "Sustain the health of the environment and natural resources" [1]

The New Leaf Market was then organized into the Cooperative's model called the Downtown Food Project. The Downtown Food Project wanted to make a grocery store Co-op, a commercial kitchen that was to be shared by the grocery store and other local food micro-enterprises, a wholesale brokerage for local growers and producers, and an educational facility for classes on nutrition, cooking, gardening, and other various food-related courses. They also divided the Downtown Food Project into the intended creation of two different organizations. The first organization would be the New Leaf Market and the other organization would be an umbrella non-profit organization that would allow for funding that would be put towards services and creating new project development. [2]

First Steps Towards Creation

Even though the New Leaf Market was first conceptualized in 2008, the group didn't really take any public action into its creation until October 2010 when they held a press conference where they announced there member-ownership drive. They then organized Green Bay's first ever New Leaf Winter Farmer's Market. The purpose of the farmer's market being the showcase of the New Leaf Market's potential to promote local farmers and entrepreneurs and to generate local food dollars. In April of 2012, New Leaf Market Cooperative contacted CDS Consulting and the National Cooperative Grocers Association to move the project from planning and organizing to actual implementation of the market. [3]

Finding A Location In Green Bay

The first major step towards the implementation of the New Leaf Market would be to find a proper location to build the grocery store on. In 2013, the New Leaf Market Cooperative conducted a market analysis of various downtown Green Bay locations, made a business plan with pro form financials, created a member loan investment prospectus, made a website, established social media presence on Facebook and twitter, and accomplished various other necessary tasks in order to secure a spot in downtown Green Bay. Despite this there were various issues that the Cooperative were running into when trying to secure a spot. The first was that the market analysis showed that the market's profitability was not as high as hoped for due to the low median income in the area. The second was that the Cooperative were asking for a lot of things that many of the spots couldn't provide and many of the spots had no existing buildings which would add costs that the Cooperative wouldn't be able to afford with their limited budget. The last major issue being that the banks in the area were unwilling to support the project due to the high risk associated with the upstart business that had little guarantee to be financially profitable. The banks' concerns would lead the Cooperative on a wild goose chase for a partnership in order to gain enough financing to where the banks were comfortable enough to fully support the construction and operation of the New Leaf Market. [4]

Going With De Pere

In 2014 the Cooperative would try to end the goose chase that put their project on hold by conducting a new market analysis that focused on areas outside of the downtown Green Bay area. This new market analysis would identify De Pere as the top option. This due to De Pere having more favorable market demographics, having an existing building, a large variety of parking options, and it being on a high traffic count street. When the Cooperative saw the potential, they sprang into action by quickly acquiring a WEDC grant, a City Revolving Loan, and local bank support with a USDA loan Guarantee. [5] The Cooperative would try not to let the newfound opportunity go to waste and would try to gain more funding and members in the De Pere area. By 2017 the Cooperative would secure 3-million-dollars of the projected 3.8 million dollar total project cost and would have 900 members that would have part ownership in the market. The Cooperative would continue efforts by trying to secure the remaining funds and getting 600 more members by their projected opening in early 2018. [6]

Problems Arise and Lead To An Uncertain Future

Everything was looking good for the New Leaf Market's chances of being a huge success in the downtown De Pere area as the Cooperative had everything set for the construction and eventual operation of the market until an untimely tragedy struck. The projected project total went up and the cooperative was forced to notify the bank that was providing the Cooperative the loan in order to to make the New Market a reality. The bank didn't take the increase lightly and forced the cooperative to acquire an additional 400,000 dollars in equity to qualify for the loan. [7] The Cooperative is unlikely to be able to get the money necessary unless the Cooperative were to stumble upon a miracle investor in a short period. In light of this problem the Cooperative's board of directors voted abruptly on April 4, 2018 to dissolve the Cooperative due to the group not being able the make the financing package work anymore. The bank decision cause an avalanche of financial problems that has seemingly derail the entire project. There is still hope though as the Cooperative hasn't officially dissolved yet and there is a special member meeting on May 22, 2018 in order for all the group's member to vote on where the organization's future is heading. [8]

References

  1. "History Of The New Leaf Market," New Leaf Market.org, April 23 2017.
  2. "History Of The New Leaf Market," New Leaf Market.org, April 23 2017.
  3. "History Of The New Leaf Market," New Leaf Market.org, April 23 2017.
  4. "History Of The New Leaf Market," New Leaf Market.org, April 23 2017.
  5. "History Of The New Leaf Market," New Leaf Market.org, April 23 2017.
  6. "More Members Wanted," Green Bay.com, March 7 2017.
  7. "New Leaf Fails To Take Root," Green Bay Press Gazette.com, April 23 2018.
  8. "New Leaf Board Recommends Ending Efforts," Fox 11 News.com, April 18 2018.

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