"The difference with Solomon and Newell, both born and raised in the United States, was that they focused their investments in one region to make the most sweeping change possible on a social, business, environmental, and political scale. The area they chose was Metro Vancouver, where the pair has been responsible for millions and millions of dollars in various types of business investments, charitable contributions and, more recently, enthusiastic backing for the city's new left-leaning mayor, Gregor Robertson."
- Lori Culbert, The Vancouver Sun, 8 August 2010.
In Vancouver's 2008 municipal election, the biggest financial backers of the winning political party, Vision Vancouver, were Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications. Strategic Communications says that it is a "partner" of Renewal Partners. Together, these two companies contributed a total of $188,062 to Vision Vancouver. Considering the financial heft that these two companies exerted in the previous municipal election, its fair for the public to inquire to some extent about these companies.
One of first things that surprises me about Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications is that aparently neither of them are registered in British Columbia. According to company records, both Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications are "extra-provincial" companies. Renewal Partners is registered in Halifax and Strategic Communications in Ontario.
Renewal Partners describes itself as a seed-capital investment firm and says that it invests in companies that are producing new products and services needed for sustainability and social change. This is really important work so it would be encouraging to know that Renewal Partners is actually doing what it says.
Renewal Partners says that it has invested in "over 75 companies." At the web-site of Renewal Partners, I could find the names of only 26 of these companies. For two of these 26 companies (Altrushares and The Nimble Company), I could not find a B.C. company summary or any other on-line information about the existence of these companies.
Renewal Partners says that it has invested "heavily" in British Columbia. Of the 24 companies for which I could find information, only eight are or were located in Vancouver. A further five companies are in Canada but not based in Vancouver.
Why so much investment in the United States?
Ten of the 24 companies about which I could find information are based in the U.S.
Joel Solomon talks about Vancouver as a model for social change. "Vancouver is the city that Solomon believes is best positioned to move to a new plane," Solomon told Vancouver journalist, Frances Bula. If so, why is it that Renewal Partners has invested in more companies in the United States than in Vancouver?
The American companies in which Renewal Partners reports that it has invested are:
- a pizza company and an organic yoghurt company in New Hampshire
- a cosmetics company in New York
- a Vermont company that sells environmentally-friendly cleaning products
- a packaged goods company in San Francisco
- a wild seafood company based in Altos, California
- a music publishing company in Colorado
- a company that sells solar-powered battery chargers, based in Berkeley
- a seed-capital investment firm in Vermont.
All of these companies may be helping to make the world a better place, but if Joel Solomon and Renewal Partners' primary interest is in making Vancouver a model for social change and sustainability, why are they investing in companies in New Hampshire, New York, Colorado, Vermont and California?
To lead a shift towards sustainability - as Joel Solomon and Renewal Partners aim to do - aren't there higher priorities than organic coffee, fruit juices, cloth maxi-pads, grocery delivery and cosmetics? Of all the "green" products that Renewal Partners could invest in, why New Hampshire pizza and re-usable maxipads?
Two of the companies in which Renewal Partners has apparently invested, are real estate companies: Renewal Land Company and Village Real Estate, based in Nashville, Tennessee. According to U.S. tax returns, Joel Solomon has 10 percent ownership in Village Real Estate. If true, what this means, if I'm not mistaken, is that Renewal Partners has invested in a company in which Joel Solomons has ownership.
Another entity which the Endswell Foundation says that is has supported, is Hollyhock. Company records show that the president of both Hollyhock Farm Ltd. and Hollyhock Centre Ltd. is Joel Solomon. Hollyhock has at least 10 employees who do "bodywork" which costs from $85 to $170 per hour. Bodywork services are offered by Hollyhock Farm Ltd., a for-profit corporation that operates on the grounds of Hollyhock, the ocean-front charity facility. Prior to his entry into B.C. politics, the treasurer of Hollyhock Farm Ltd. in 2004, was Mayor Gregor Robertson. The only other two officers of this company, at the time, were Joel Solomon and Martha Burton, the current treasurer of Vision Vancouver.
- Lunapads International Products Ltd. - cloth maxipads to wash by hand and re-use. For info from Renewal Partners, click here.
- Happy Planet - part-owned by Mayor Gregor Robertson, 60% owned by Naheb Mathoo, according to Business in Vancouver. For info from Renewal Partners, click here.
- Horizon Distributors - household delivery of groceries, specialized in organic foods. For info from Renewal Partners, click here.
- Small Potatoes Urban Delivery - household delivery of groceries, specialized in organic foods. For info from Renewal Partners, click here.
- Inhance Investment Management Inc. - Vancity?
- Jorg. & Olif. - now in the U.K.
- Shared Vision - in hiatus as of April 2009
- Alter-ecos Americas - packaged goods, specialized in fair trade & organic products
- Better Energy Systems LLC - (www.solio.com) - solar-powered batter chargers
- Blue Horizon Foods - a wild seafood company, based in Aptos, CA
- Peacekeeper Cause-metics - a cosmetics company in New York
- Rustic Crust - a pizza company in New Hampshire
- Sounds True Inc. - a media publishing company, based in Colorado
- Stonyfield Farm - an organic yogurt company in New Hampshire. For info from Renewal Partners, click here.
- Underdog Ventures - based in Vermont
Updated: November 12, 2011
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