It’s Called An L3C


There’s a new company in town — an L3C. Okay, it’s not here yet, but as soon as Gov. Perdue signs SB 308, North Carolina will join Michigan, Vermont, Illinois, Wyoming, Utah, and (in 2011) Maine in allowing this hybrid business entity that appeared first in Vermont just two years ago. It is the kind of vehicle we could use to help put workers displaced by plant closings back to work in WNC. Wikipedia describes the L3C this way:

The L3C is a low-profit limited liability company (LLC), that functions via a business modality that is a hybrid legal structure combining the financial advantages of the limited liability company, an LLC, with the social advantages of a non-profit entity. An L3C runs like a regular business and is profitable. However, unlike a for-profit business, the primary focus of the L3C is not to make money, but to achieve socially beneficial aims, with profit making as a secondary goal. The L3C thus occupies a niche between the for-profit and charitable sectors.

Henredon Furniture, Morganton, NC (Burke County)

N.C. Senator Jim Jacumin, a Republican who represents Burke and Caldwell Counties, introduced the Senate bill which passed in the House on Thursday without a single No vote. The N.C. Center for Nonprofits described his intentions:

N.C. Senator Jacumin envisioned L3Cs as collaborations between local nonprofits and failing furniture or textile businesses. These L3Cs would use investments (direct investments, grants, or low-interest loans) from private foundations, businesses, and individuals to purchase and upgrade factories to make them more energy efficient and less expensive to operate. The L3Cs could then lease these factories to manufacturers at competitive rates that would help keep manufacturing jobs in local communities.

The purpose of the L3C is to assist small businesses that might not be able to get off the ground if they had to pay investors a commercial rate of return. Like MOOMilk, a local organic milk company in Maine. Like small-business start-ups in struggling towns with high unemployment. Or to renovate existing factory space. Or newspapers big and small, for example. For the socially responsible investor, this is a way to do good — including put people back to work — and make a few bucks along the way. The L3C’s creator, Robert Lang, CEO of The Mary Elizabeth and Gordon B. Mannweiler Foundation, Inc., calls it “the for profit with a non profit soul.”

Rush Limbaugh calls it an idea thought up by liberal “wackos.” Rush believes “this is social engineering … designed to pervert capitalism” and “propagandize the American people in the name of the Obama administration.”

Where do I send the check?

Then again, maybe Ashevillians should just invest in more high-priced condos?


  1. Jim Reeves says:

    I don’t think this a new concept, when the Intelligence agencies do it it’s called a “cut out” or proprietary operation fulfilling a policy goal, for profit, while not officially operating on the agency’s behalf.(think Iran-Contra). The problem is Whose definition of “Socially beneficial aims” is used.Happy stories aside, could BP help (buy off) “struggling” gulf coast newspapers? Could the Carlyle Group help start-up private security organizations? Could the Biltmore estate folks use Riverlink to …

  2. Tom Sullivan says:

    I think it’s all tied in with charitable foundations and like groups that are non-profit by nature.

  3. Rick Zwetsch says:

    The L3C is for real folks. Not as easy as maybe first intended but no question for real. We’ve written a white paper with some of the “on the street” thoughts. You can request it here: http://www.interSectorL3C.com/white_paper.html

    Let us know if you have questions or need more information!

    Rick Zwetsch, Principal Partner
    interSector Partners, L3C
    39th L3C to organize in the US
    1st L3C operating in Colorado since Feb ’09