Tualatin-based Lightspeed Adopts Employee Stock Ownership Program

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The educational tech company joins a rising trend of companies transitioning to employee ownership models. 

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Lightspeed, a Tualatin-based company that provides audio tech for classrooms, announced Thursday that its 70 employees now own 100% of the business. 

“We take pride in ownership, which starts with ensuring educators are satisfied with our products and service,” said Solomon. “This transition has been part of a long-term strategy going back to Lightspeed’s founders and our core values and mission. We’re in it for the long run with our customers and employees,” Lightspeed CEO David Solomon said in a press release announcing the move.

The company’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) will “provide continuity to end-users, which in Lightspeed’s case, are educators and students,” according to the press , which also said the company was able to provide “strong returns” for all Lightspeed investors exiting the company. 

In 2019, 6,482 companies in the United States had ESOPs, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

Oregon has a number of small employee-owned companies — like Astoria’s Blue Scorcher Bakery, which employs about 30 people and Portland’s Citybikes Workers Cooperative Repair Shop, which employs about 20. 

But Lightspeed also joins some large Oregon companies in shifting to a worker-owned model. Milwaukie-based natural foods manufacturer Bob’s Red Mill adopted an ESOP in 2020, dividing ownership of the company among its 600 employees. The Eugene-based retailer Bi-Mart, which employs more than 3,500 people, adopted an ESOP model in 2004.

Adopting an ESOP gives employees an incentive  in staying with a company for as long as possible, in order to obtain ownership benefits. According to data from the National Center for Employee Ownership, ESOP companies grow 2% to 3% faster than those without an ESOP.

The COVID-19 pandemic could mean more companies will adopt a worker-owned model as the labor market tilts in workers’ favor and employers struggle to hire and retain staff. 

A 2021 study funded by the Employee Ownership Foundation conducted by Rutgers School of Labor and Management found in 2020, companies with ESOPs were four times more likely to retain an employee than companies without. Employee-owned organizations were also more likely to maintain regular hours and provide protective measures for workers. 

Lightspeed was established in 1990. Its products include microphones and multimedia systems for classroom use as well as small-group instruction. The company says in the last five years, more than 3,500 schools and districts and 3.5 million students have used its products. 

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