JAY — The employees of Ward Lumber have made history by purchasing the 130-year-old business as a worker-owned cooperative. The transaction marks the first employee ownership transition of its kind in the North Country region of New York state.
The lumber products and hardware store, which has locations in Jay and Malone and employs more than 50 local people, has been in Jay Ward’s family for four generations. Ward, who will continue his leadership role as the company’s chief executive officer, completed a contract with his employee team that makes Ward Lumber the largest worker-owned cooperative in the region.
“Every business is going to go through a transition, whether that is by design or default,” said Ward. “Rather than choose liquidation or selling to some other business that would change the culture, I wanted to look at employee ownership.
“Employee ownership vests the control of the company in the hands of the people that work it every day, who live in the communities that we serve, and have that vested interest in ownership,” Ward said. “I really wanted to empower the employee team to make decisions on their behalf and for their benefit.”
Ward Lumber has been in business since 1890 in the AuSable River valley of the Adirondack Mountains.
Ward Pine Mill, the manufacturing division of the Ward Lumber family enterprise, is operated by Jay’s brother Jeff Ward. Ward Pine Mill became an independent business in 2017 and is not included in the employee ownership transaction.
“The main thing that’s changing is I’ll be reporting to a board of directors of our employee team,” Jay Ward said, noting they have been working on the transition process for more than three years. Ward will remain heavily involved operating the business for the foreseeable future.
Read the full story in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.