Co-operatives in Spain-Mondragon leads the way The name of the small Basque town of Mondragon has, over the years, had something approaching talismanic status from British advocates of co-operative business looking for evidence to convince sceptics that coops really can work. The story of the co-operative which bears Mondragon's name, originally a small manufacturer started in the bleak Franco period of the mid-1950s, continues to cast a powerful spell: the Mondragon Corporation today is an international cooperative business empire, employing over 85,000 people and operating across the globe, but still claiming to be run in strict accordance with co-operative principles. "The Mondragon Corporation is based on a commitment to solidarity and on democratic methods for its organisation and management," says Mikel Lezamiz, director of Mondragon's c-ooperative dissemination unit. Mondragon demonstrates an alternative to the 'business as usual' mantra of shareholder-owned companies, he maintains: "Our mission is not to earn money, it is to create wealth within society through entrepreneurial development and job creation." Mondragon has grown to be the tenth largest business in Spain and it certainly dominates the Basque economy, historically one of the industrial powerhouses in the Spanish state. Having begun with the manufacture of domestic appliances, it continues to have a strong presence in the white goods industry (mainly under the brand name Fagor). It also has major interests in other areas of manufacture as diverse as bicycle production and lift manufacture (the latter including its UK Quality Lifts subsidiary, based in Wiltshire). It counts as its competitors firms such as Hitachi, Mitsubishi, GE and LG. Mondragon also has major interests in retailing, in finance (where it operates a savings bank and an insurer) and in education, where it operates schools, technical colleges and a cooperative university. There are also 14 research and development centres.