Gardener’s Supply Company of Burlington, VT, has been named the 2018 ESOP Company of the Year by The ESOP Association. The announcement was made at The Association’s Annual Conference.
“Gardener’s Supply is a prime example of an ESOP company that actively engages its employee owners, the employee ownership community, and elected officials at the state and federal levels,” said ESOP Association President J. Michael Keeling. “Its commitment to sharing with others the power of ESOPs is an example all ESOP companies can proudly seek to replicate.”
Founded in 1983, the company launched its ESOP only a few years later, in 1987. By 2009, Gardener’s was 100 percent employee owned. The company’s 225 regular year-round employees are eligible to participate in the ESOP, as are repeat seasonal employees.
Gardener’s shares information about is ESOP through an 11-member ESOP Committee, which meets for 60-90 minutes every other week. One Committee member serves as a non-voting liaison to the Board of Directors, and attends the quarterly board meetings.
The company meets regularly with the Governor of Vermont, and works with members of Congress in the House and Senate to promote pro-employee ownership legislation.
Internally, Gardener’s offers a wide range of educational and inspirational activities to help its employee owners learn about ESOPs and the company culture. Externally, it shares lessons it has learned by participating in and speaking at chapter and national meetings of The ESOP Association.
A B Corp, Gardner’s community outreach efforts include participating in charity events that benefit the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, and in gleaning—gathering surplus produce from farms to help those in need.
The company donates each year to the Employee Ownership Foundation, which sponsors academic research on employee ownership, and the company’s COO—Cindy Turcot—is a Foundation Trustee.
An ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) is a retirement plan permitted by federal law. Owners of a business set up an ESOP by selling some or all of their shares to an ESOP trust, which then credits shares to the accounts of participating employees.
The Trust holds the shares for employees for the duration of their tenure with the company. After leaving the business, employees may receive cash for the value of their shares or roll the funds they receive into another qualified retirement vehicle.
ESOPs are the only retirement plan authorized to invest primarily in the stock of the employer. Under specific conditions, employees are legally entitled to diversify their ESOP funds and to invest assets outside of the company.
About The ESOP Association:
The ESOP Association is America’s largest employer-sponsored advocacy and education association focused on employee stock ownership plans. Founded in 1978, the Association seeks to enhance federal laws governing ESOPs, provide members with expert information, and fund research via the Employee Ownership Foundation (an affiliate).
The ESOP Association is a national non-profit organization with 18 local Chapters. Its members include ESOP companies, companies considering an ESOP, and service providers that assist in setting up and maintaining ESOPs.