Ward Lumber completes historic transition to employee ownership

April, 2021

JAY | In what could become a model for the North Country or even the nation, employees at Ward Lumber Co. in Jay and Malone have purchased the company, which had been family owned since 1890.

The transition, which was facilitated under the federal 2018 Main Street Employee Ownership Act, comes as an increasing number of company owners seek to step back from daily operations, while simultaneously protecting their legacy. But the move is also seen as empowering workers and, perhaps, as a fundamental shift in corporate power structure. It was something company owner Jay Ward had been thinking about for a long time, from a lot of different angles.

“I first thought about this 25 years ago, but was told it couldn’t be done,” said Ward, fourth generation owner of the lumber and hardware company, which has about 50 employees. “I wanted to transition ownership and keep Ward Lumber operating into the future, but I didn’t have any idea how to make that happen.”

Ward will remain with the restructured company as chief executive officer.

The typical options for owners have been either liquidation or sale to a new owner who may not share the departing family’s values. “And when that business goes away, it’s probably not going to be replaced,” Ward said.

Read the full article in the Sun Community News