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The Czech Republic sends aid to West, rich in Czech heritage, after the fertilizer plant explosion there. Co-ops and their paychecks continue to boost the U.S. economy.
The folks in West, 15 minutes north of Waco, might argue that the “Kolach trail” begins and ends there. For one thing, the Village Bakery claims to be the first all-Czech bakery in Texas. For another, the town of just 2,800 people boasts three bakeries serving kolache, the fruit-filled pastries with Czech origins that lure travelers to exit Interstate 35.
West’s Czech roots run deep—75 percent of residents claim Czech heritage. And when the fertilizer plant in West exploded April 17, killing 15 people, Petr Gandalovič, the Czech Republic ambassador to the United States, visited two days later to offer condolences and lend support, saying the explosion was the top news story in his home country that day. Within a week, that country’s government approved 4 million Czech crowns (about $200,000) to help rebuild a community center.
Cooperative businesses provide more than 2 million jobs in the U.S. and create more than $75 billion in annual wages, according to the National Cooperative Bank. The largest co-op sector is agriculture, which accounts for $139 billion in revenue. Energy and communications co-ops rank third.