Op-Ed

Business executives key to job creation, community investment

Geoff 
Rosenberger, a Rochester, N.Y. investment manager, is a University of Kentucky graduate on an advisory council for the Gatton College of Business.
Geoff Rosenberger, a Rochester, N.Y. investment manager, is a University of Kentucky graduate on an advisory council for the Gatton College of Business.

As a "wealthy business executive" who years ago "funded his own campaign" for public office, I'd like to respond to Tom Eblen's column which was critical of both corporations and wealthy candidates for public office.

A recurring criticism of today's political landscape is the inherent corrupting influence of special-interest campaign contributions. The beauty of self-funded candidates is that they enter office without political debts owed to moneyed special interests. Candidates with the money to self-fund their campaigns clearly aren't entering politics for the paycheck.

Think about it. Who is most susceptible to being bought by special interests, the politician who doesn't need the job or the politician whose public office salary dwarfs anything he or she ever made in the private sector?

Eblen goes on to denigrate business executives who allegedly have nothing in common with average Kentuckians. What about higher education? Do average Kentuckians have an interest in a vibrant University of Kentucky? Are construction workers drawing a paycheck from erecting the new Gatton College of Business building under construction on UK's campus?

Well, that building's $65 million cost is entirely funded with donations from those same wealthy business executives demonized by Eblen. The scholarships many average Kentuckians depend upon to make college affordable? By and large, they're funded by those same business executives, some active, some retired.

Who underwrites the arts, the United Way and Red Cross chapters across Kentucky? Who funds the cultural institutions? To a large extent, it's Kentucky's business owners and the wealth spun from their enterprises. Every Kentuckian benefits from the contributions those institutions make to the quality of life across the commonwealth.

The most offensive aspect of Eblen's column is his allegation that business executives are "not job creators." So where do jobs come from? No job can exist without someone first having had the courage and fortitude to go out and start a business. Every large company starts out small. Some grow into multinational corporations but most fail to survive beyond the first few years.

Every job in America can be traced back to an entrepreneur who bet his or her life's savings on the crazy idea that he or she just might be able to profitably deliver a product or service that customers would like to buy. Yes, sometimes companies have to lay people off. That's a natural part of the competitive process. But a job that was never created can never be eliminated. A factory has to be built before it can be closed. Even public-sector employees have their salaries funded with taxes paid by private sector workers whose jobs were created by business people.

As for Eblen's criticism of "so called 'right-to-work' laws," perhaps he should take a look at the census data for right-to-work states like Texas, Florida, Georgia or North Carolina and compare their population growth to Kentucky's. A fundamental rule of economics is that investment capital flows to where it is treated well and away from places where it isn't. Labor laws have a lot to do with that. So does a state's regulatory climate.

Years ago I counted 27 separate governmental regulatory bodies with oversight over my 27-employee business — we literally had one regulator per employee. High wages and regulations to protect the public are great, but only if there is an employer still there to actually pay those wages.

Finally, Eblen makes the point that "renewable energy is the future," which is a reasonable enough proposition. So, why doesn't he put down his pen and become a renewable energy entrepreneur? Go out and convince investors to put up the capital to back the enterprise. Invite the union in to organize newly hired employees. Pay them above-average wages and a full benefits package. Then find some customers to buy your product.

It'll be a breeze.

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