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Employee Ownership Transition Announcement

By now many of you have heard the news that Local Ocean Seafoods is becoming an Employee-Owned company. After an astonishing two decades of growth and transformation as the owner and leader of Local Ocean, I am ready to pursue other projects. Letting go is hard, but the time has come for me to take a step down.

I honestly think that I have had the best job for the last 20 years. I’ve been able to work with some of the most community-minded, talented, and committed professionals in the restaurant and seafood industry: from an impressive core leadership team to all our 75 staff members, over 100 hard-working local fishermen that bring us the products we are proud of, and of course, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve countless customers over the last 20 years. I love our Newport community and I am heartened by our local fans that have kept us going.

I can’t think of a better legacy to leave than the continuation of our beloved company in the hands of the people who have co-created it with me. We have put our collective hearts and souls into what Local Ocean has become and I am inspired by the fact that the company will continue to operate in perpetuity for the benefit of all existing employees.

I’d like to share a little about our transition plans –

The Local Ocean leadership team is working with Alternative Ownership Advisors on creating an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) that will take over ownership of the company. Alternative Ownership Advisors is a Portland-based subsidiary of Organically Grown Company – one of the first successful Employee Ownership Trusts in Oregon. We are about halfway through and hope to complete the transition by the end of this year.

We have developed a set of 12 principles and key objectives for the formation of the Employee Ownership Trust. It includes people-focused values like providing a great place to work for everybody. It ensures a profit-sharing program that fairly and equitably distributes meaningful dividends to employee-owners. It ensures that our product and service standards are maintained and that our premises stay in excellent operating condition. It ensures we continue to buy sustainable, local seafood directly from fishermen. And it includes that we advocate for Oregon fishers and fisheries through the education, philanthropy, and partnerships with values-aligned entities both locally and globally.

In short, the principles safeguard that the Local Ocean that you know and love will continue to operate with exemplary environmental, social, and economic sustainability standards into the future.

Who’s in charge? Governance in an EOT has some familiar roles and a couple of new ones:

While our management team continues to run the day to day operations, a newly formed Board of Directors will make core financial decisions and oversees business strategy. The Board includes me as the founder, managers representing each of our core business functions (Operations, Sales, and Finance), a CEO, and community members.

The Board is accountable to an annual review by a Trust Stewardship Committee, which evaluates Local Ocean’s performance relative its mission, principles, and key objectives. This committee will include the founder, a board member, employees, and community members.

We will launch a CEO search this fall/winter. Until a new CEO is hired, I will continue advancing the work of the Local Ocean – full steam ahead. After the new CEO is hired, I will stay on as long as needed to assist with the CEO transition and, I will serve on the Board of Directors and Trust Stewardship Committee for the foreseeable future, to help the business continue to thrive.

What am I up to now?

Oregon’s food from the sea is among the most valuable natural capital on the planet. I look forward to continuing to work with Oregon fishermen and wholesale buyers, local and State governments, universities, and nonprofits to support a local food system that retains seafood value in the coastal economies and celebrates its extraordinary significance to the state and the region.

I am excited to continue this work in the form of a new seafood hub here in Newport. We call it “The Lab” and it will support not just Local Ocean’s seafood processing and DockBox needs but will also serve other small businesses by offering low-cost shared space and equipment through an Ocean Cluster Initiative project.

And of course, I am really excited to take some time with my husband Steve to explore more of this wild and beautiful world we live in. The opportunity to learn and grow in new ways is something I am extremely grateful for.

With Love, Laura A

Originally published on Facebook 3/9/2022