Community Supported Industry


Community Supported Industry (CSI) is a strategy to build resilient and diverse regional economies. CSI is an initiative aimed at creating a culture of support for entrepreneurs interested in more labor intensive, small-batch local production The concept of Community Supported Industry is an expansion of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.

Import Dependence

Each of the varied regions in the United States was once home to a vibrant manufacturing sector that provided jobs and economic vitality while producing quality products made from the region’s resources. Currently, the majority of goods purchased in the U.S. are imported from distant countries and shipped across oceans to reach us.


Import Replacement

The goal of Community Supported Industry is to strengthen regional economies by replacing some of those imports with goods produced by local businesses that provide living wages and employ sustainable manufacturing processes.

Our focus is on the basic necessities—food, clothing, shelter, and energy—and the goal is to foster businesses that produce locally, employ local residents, and sell in local shops as well as export to other regions. By engaging a broad base of citizens in designing, developing, marketing, and financing new businesses, Community Supported Industry will help re-establish the value chain from resource to production to distribution and sale.

Within the Berkshire Region’s Community Supported Industry initiative, multiple partner organizations will develop paths for the Berkshire community to co-imagine, co-develop and co-finance and patronize “import-replacement” businesses. These businesses will responsibly harness the natural resources available to us here in the Berkshires in order to create products for local consumption or even for export.


Community-Based Small Business Loan Collateralization Program

The Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy (SHARE) program of the Southern Berkshire region existed from 1981 to 1992, and collateralized 23 loans with a 100% rate of repayment - surprising the bankers, but not the SHARE depositors who knew the community businesses they supported. SHARE ended in 1992 when the banks in the region began reinvesting in small community-based businesses. Many of the businesses were able to secure loans at lower interest rates, so SHARE was no longer needed for its original purpose.
However, the SHARE model is still a useful and simple to operate tool that can allow citizens to make affordable loans available to businesses that cannot secure loans at reasonable rates. Learn more about how to start your own SHARE program.



Community Entrepreneurs

Creating business plans for each of the multiple, interrelated small businesses that make up a thriving regional economy can be time intensive. The Schumacher Center for a New Economics is taking a page from the Mondragon bank in the Basque region of Spain to engage citizen "social entrepreneurs" in compiling an open-source online library of business plans, including financial statements, from successful regionally-scaled business.

You can help build the library by submitting business plans and financial statements of small-scale manufacturing companies in the categories of food, clothing, shelter, energy, and transportation. Send pdfs to Please include a statement in your email granting permission to post for public record. Please delete identifying confidential information by blacking out names, addresses, and Employer Identification Numbers as necessary.


Entry to Entrepreneurship 

As part of the initiative to foster community entrepreneurship in the Schumacher Center's home region of the Berkshires, since 2015 BerkShares, Inc. and the Schumacher Center for a New Economics have partnered with local organizations, community members, and companies to offer Entry to Entrepreneurship (E2E), a 10-week business-planning course for 16 to 30 year-olds. The class is offered from late January to mid April and is held at the Great Barrington campus of Berkshire Community College. 

Each lesson is taught by a different volunteer member of the community, who brings his or her own unique skills, experience, and voice to our classroom. From lawyers and accountants to retired executives, shop owners, and food producers, the mentors, advisors and reviewers are all locally-based and offer a future support network for E2E graduates. 

In the class, students are introduced to the concept of import replacement and are asked to identify what might be produced in the region that is currently being imported from elsewhere. This sets the tone for the course, and encourages students to write plans for businesses that will address practical needs in their community.

Each student presents their business plan at a public event at the end of the series of classes. Plans not implemented are shared on the BerkShares website, to serve as a starting point for future community entrepreneurs.

Take a look at the resources and tools below to learn more about the Entry to Entrepreneurship class and to videos of the classes from the Winter 2017 session. The many business owners, professionals, and retirees who lent their time and advice to the E2E students are listed under "resource people." The business plans that students wrote are available by clicking the "business ideas" button.




Community Supported Industry Survey

BerkShares, Inc. has developed a survey to help us as a community identify gaps in our local economy. If you own a business in the Berkshires please take our survey. Your participation will aid in the development of Community Supported Industry.

A printable version of the survey can be downloaded here. A guide for taking the survey is available here. The survey is easily adopted for other regions.




More Information:

Community Supported Industry White Paper

Community-Supported Economyan article by Susan Witt in Kosmos Journal expanding the idea of Community Supported Industry

SHARE Microcredit Program

Rain Magazine article about a successful import replacement initiative in Eugene, Oregon.