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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Should Rhode Islanders own the companies they work for?

Five panelists at a breakfast gathering organized by Leadership Rhode Island made that argument Friday morning.

The leading arguments:

  • Employee-owned companies are fairer to workers.
  • They are more successful.
  • They are more productive.

In part because employees have a personal stake in the success of the company, employee ownership gives companies an "incredible competitive advantage," said Paul O'Reilly, president and chief executive of Newport Harbor Group. "The company doesn't have to be philosophically driven to the redistribution of wealth."  Newport Harbor Group, whose employees number some 1,600 during the peak season, operates restaurants around Rhode Island, including Castle Hill Inn, Hemenway's Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar and Waterman Grille, which hosted Friday's breakfast.  The employee owners have been key to the company's success, O'Reilly said. "We truly did grow the company together."  He predicted that more companies will move toward employee ownership as the next generation looks for more enlightened corporate structures. "What we're going to see more of in every area where younger owners are getting involved."

Anjali Sakaria, a community development analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, underscored the value of giving employees a stake in a company, so that everyone thrives when the company is a success. "That's the society we're all kind of looking for," she said.  But the economics go beyond sharing the wealth, Sakaria said.  "ESOPs are more productive than traditional businesses. That's been shown by research," she said, referring to employee stock ownership plans, one style of employee-owned company.


Read the complete article at the Providence Journal.