Black-led Investment Fund A&H transitions Denver-based Apex Plumbing Co. and El Paso-based Accent Landscape Contractors Inc. into 100% employee-owned businesses, benefitting large BIPOC workforces and all workers generally.
WASHINGTON, DC | June 6, 2022 — Apis & Heritage Capital Partners (A&H), an investment fund that finances the conversion of companies with substantial Black and Brown workforces into 100% employee-owned businesses, today announced that it has converted Denver-based Apex Plumbing Co. and El Paso-based Accent Landscape Contractors Inc. into 100% employee-owned enterprises.
“We’re immensely proud to announce these groundbreaking partnerships with Apex Plumbing and Accent Landscape Contractors. Not only will they preserve jobs and generate wealth for the employees, but they will also help to ensure the long-term sustainability of these great businesses in their communities,” said Todd Leverette, A&H Founding Partner. “We’re grateful to all of our partners, including Democracy at Work Institute and The Rockefeller Foundation, as well as visionary owners, Brian and DeAnn Wilkie of Apex Plumbing and Cameron Stevens of Accent Landscape Contractors, for sharing our vision of increasing economic equity and entrusting our fund with helping their employees to own their future.”
A&H finds businesses with large workforces of color where the owner is ready to retire and provides financing and technical support to convert the companies into 100% employee-owned businesses. Their novel “employee-led buyout” (ELBO) model is helping workers build wealth through ownership, especially Black and Brown workers who have historically been left out of such opportunities.
“Closing the racial wealth gap is why we created A&H. Today, over 40% of all Americans surveyed report they could not easily pay an unexpected $400 medical bill while about 2/3 of Black and Latino workers retire with no savings. Whereas, the average employee in an employee-owned business in the US nearing retirement has $147,000 in his or her ESOP account, which we think will be transformative for our workers, their families, and their communities,” said Phil Reeves, A&H Founding Partner.
“Today is a great day for Apex Plumbing, and in particular, our employees who will now become owners. We built a great company over 35 years through dedication and the hard work of our team,” said Brian Wilkie, Co-Founder & Owner, Apex Plumbing. “By converting our company into an employee-owned business, we have provided an opportunity for all team members to reap the benefits of their hard work going forward through stock ownership. The future is literally in their hands, and we couldn’t be more excited for our company and its new owners, our employees. We deeply appreciate the A&H team for financing, supporting, and preparing our employees for this transition.”
“I could have sold my business to a competitor or private equity, but I know what can happen next – the culture changes and people get laid off. I didn’t want that for my employees. They are like family to me, and they helped build the company. A&H offered me a fair market price, did not require me to carry a large seller’s note, cut through all of the red tape, and showed me throughout the process that my workers were going to be able to carry Accent forward. I’d like to express my gratitude to A&H and their investment partners for making this transition to employee ownership possible,” said Cameron Stevens, Founder & Owner, Accent Landscape Contractors.
A&H, which is Black-owned and invests in companies where at least 40% of the workforce consists of workers of color, announced its first close at $30 million in June 2021 through its flagship Legacy Fund I. The fund was supported by investments from the Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Zero Gap Fund, The Skoll Foundation, Capricorn Investments, Gary Community Investments, Ascension Investment Management, and many other impact investing institutions and individuals.
About the New Employee-Owned Companies
Operating since 1985, Apex Plumbing Co. is one of the largest providers of residential, commercial, and municipal sewer and water line repair and replacement in the Denver Metro Area. Known as “the underground guys,” they have successfully completed tens of thousands of sewer repairs and water line replacements. Apex also performs emergency repair and underground infrastructure rehabilitation for cities and districts and provides excavation services and turn-key surface restoration solutions for concrete, asphalt, and landscaping. Apex currently has a workforce of approximately 50 people, about 50% of whom are Latino. Senior financing was provided by UMB Bank (www.UMB.com).
Accent Landscape Contractors Inc. was incorporated in Texas in 1979. Accent engages in commercial landscaping, irrigation construction work, and maintenance services. As certified Irrigation Specialists and Qualified Commercial Landscape Developers, the Company specializes in large-scale, commercial-grade projects for private, public, and local/state/federal government clients, with a current client base of 70+ active accounts. Accent has a workforce of approximately 120 full-time workers, the majority of whom are lower-income hourly-wage Latino workers. Senior financing was provided by Woodforest National Bank (www.woodforest.com).
About Apis & Heritage Capital
Apis & Heritage Capital uses a novel “employee-led buyout” (ELBO©) structure to provide workers of color and workers in essential industries with the most powerful wealth building tool in the nation: equity in a thriving business. A&H finances the acquisition of great companies from retiring owners/founders and converts them into 100% employee-owned enterprises. The ELBO© utilizes the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which has over 50 years of bipartisan political and regulatory support, to secure significant tax benefits for qualifying companies and wealth-building opportunities for employees. To facilitate the ELBO©, A&H coordinates senior financing from some of America’s most forward-thinking lending institutions. A&H and its operating partner, the nonprofit Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), invest in training to build an ownership culture that ensures all employee-owners, from management to the shop floor, are engaged in a common endeavor to create healthy, growing, profitable, and satisfying places to work over the long term. A&H was incubated at DAWI with seed funding provided by the Kendeda Fund, the Kellogg Foundation, and support from Citi Community Development.
About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation to enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We work to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunity universal. Our focus is on scaling renewable energy for all, stimulating economic mobility, and ensuring equitable access to healthy and nutritious food. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at rockefellerfoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.
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