I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately. My new role at Assets, where I started working in February, enables me to listen in on two timely community conversations. One is about attracting and keeping top employees and the other is about alleviating poverty and lessening inequality. This is what I’m hearing.

Businesses are focused on building an engaged workforce.

— Companies are keeping a close eye on the pipeline of workers to ensure the needed skills are available to meet their current and future business needs.

— Companies are competing to attract top employees, preferably from our community but also from outside as is often needed.

— Companies are working furiously to keep current employees in place and want to build work cultures that enable employees, and ultimately the business, to flourish.

Community-serving organizations are focused on combating poverty.

— Many residents feel the strong rebound of the city, but not all.

— Census statistics show poverty is concentrated in the city (29 percent) compared to the larger county (11 percent).

— Poverty in the city has increased, while poverty in the county has decreased.

— Despite our smaller size, the city’s poverty rate is actually greater than our larger metropolitan neighbors — compared to Philly’s 27 percent and Pittsburgh’s 23 percent.

The implicit question I hear is this: How do we build an inclusive economy that works for everyone and creates a shared and durable prosperity?

This is where I would like to interject.

Employee-owned companies can be a powerful tool to address this question, an innovative solution to bridge both community conversations listed above.During my time working at B Lab, the group certifying for-profit B Corporations for rigorous social and environmental contributions to society, I interacted with inspiring employee-owned companies operating as B-Corps, including Dansko, Namaste Solar, King Arthur Flour and Cooperative Home Care Associates.And we have stellar examples of employee ownership in our own community. Cargas Systems immediately comes to mind.

Read more: Column: Employee-owned companies can encourage shared prosperity | Local Business | lancasteronline.com